These Tests Continue to Mean Nothing


What’s in a number?

One of my students entered third grade in September not knowing how to skip count by 2s, 5s, or 10s. (Counting by 10s is a standard for kindergarten, so you know).  Nevertheless, she worked tirelessly on her math all year, and so did her parents, so that she could make it in third grade.

I held a sliver of hope for her doing better than a level 1 on the state math test (1 being the lowest level, 4 being the highest). I knew, though, that it would take a real confluence of serendipitous factors for that to happen. Still, I was confident she would do her absolute best, as this student simply knows no other way.

I wasn’t terribly shocked when, in June, I got the list of students’ levels on the test. Four of my students got a 2. Everyone else got 1s. She was one of the 1s. I didn’t give it much of a second thought, but I did think, “Well, she may have been close.”

This week, the thorough and dedicated data specialist at my school sent an email with every student’s raw score on the test. I looked over mine and was surprised to see that I no longer had four students with 2s, I actually had seven. That was nice.

Except it could have been eight. I looked at that girl’s score and saw she was only two total points behind my lowest level 2. That means she missed a level 2 by, I imagine, no more than one question. Phooey.

Her accomplishments are not diminished by the level 1, the test not being the be-all end-all. In fact, given where she started the year and where she ended, the fact that she came so close to a level 2 is a major accomplishment in its own right.

Need I say it again? Do these tests measure anything significant?

And in related news, this from local news channel NY1:

The city sent 33,000 [students] to summer school, thinking they would fail the tests this year. But it turns out 7,000 of them actually passed. Those kids are now free to take the rest of the summer off but the chancellor said he hopes they’ll stay in school anyway.

You can’t make it up. What must the parents have to say about it?

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One response to “These Tests Continue to Mean Nothing

  1. We were just having this discussion this evening with a gathering of teachers who received the Lilly Teacher Creativity Grant. If a test has any validity, there should be standard deviation. Expecting everyone to pass it while taking no consideration of the other factors affecting a child’s education is worse than ludicrous. At least Indiana has started taking into consideration a child’s yearly improvement. Still, a teacher whose school averaged a 96% pass rate is labelled a “failing school” if that rate drops to 95%, since there isn’t “progre
    ss.” Who comes up with this stuff???

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